The Nature Conservancy Launches Initiative to Protect Minnesota’s Headwaters

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The Nature Conservancy is launching a new initiative to raise awareness of the importance of the Mississippi River Headwaters area to protect the drinking water supply of more than 1 million Minnesotans. Protecting Minnesota's Headwaters is good for nature, people and business.

Minnesotans love water! © Nate Ryan

"As Minnesotans, we take clean water for granted. The quality of life we enjoy in Minnesota is not possible without clean, abundant water." - Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota.

The Nature Conservancy is launching a new initiative to raise awareness of the importance of the Mississippi River Headwaters area to protect the drinking water supply of more than 1 million Minnesotans.

The Conservancy’s efforts are focused on the Mississippi River and its tributary streams in central Minnesota, including the Rum, Crow Wing, Pine and Sauk rivers, which supply drinking water to residents in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud and other communities in central Minnesota. These waters also provide important habitat for fish and other wildlife and are vital to Minnesota manufacturing, recreation and tourism.

To draw attention to its initiative, the Conservancy is launching a multi-media public awareness campaign. The campaign features a diverse group of Minnesotans immersing their faces into clean tap water originating from the Mississippi River.

The goal of the campaign is to encourage Minnesotans to take positive, proactive action to protect Minnesota’s waters. To help Minnesotans better understand what they can do now, the Conservancy has launched a new website, http://www.cleanwaterstartshere.org.

To protect Minnesota’s waters, The Nature Conservancy is seeking to raise $10 million for its Minnesota Headwaters Fund from companies, foundations, and private citizens to:

  • Conserve forests, grasslands and wetlands in the Mississippi River Headwaters area in central Minnesota to reduce and prevent pollutants and sediment from entering rivers, lakes and groundwater.
  • Raise awareness about the need to protect Minnesota’s waters and encourage Minnesotans to take action to help protect the state’s rivers, lakes and groundwater.

“The quality of life we enjoy in Minnesota is not possible without clean, abundant water,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “The Minnesota Headwaters Fund is a way for citizens, business and government to take action now to protect our waters while they are still healthy, ensuring a bright future for us all. We invite all Minnesotans to join us in this essential work.”

Demand for clean water provided by the Mississippi River is projected to increase as Minnesota’s population grows by 1 million people by 2030. More people will place greater pressure on the development of lands in Minnesota’s Mississippi River Headwaters area.

Forests, wetlands, and grasslands are critical to absorbing and filtering the water that eventually drains into the Mississippi River and other waterways. Land use changes have been shown to significantly impact water quality by elevating levels of nitrogen and other pollutants and, in turn, increasing the cost to communities of providing clean water.

Economic forces, including increasing demand for corn and soybeans, are driving changes in land use in the Mississippi Headwaters area. Between 2008 and 2013, more than 260,000 acres of forest, wetland and grassland were converted to agriculture, with the largest proportion of this occurring in critical water supply source areas.

The Nature Conservancy has extensive experience with protecting Minnesota’s waters from Lake Superior to the St. Croix, Root and St. Louis rivers. The organization has been protecting forests and water quality in Minnesota’s Mississippi River Headwaters area for more than a decade, helping to conserve more than 150,000 acres.

“As Minnesotans, we take clean water for granted,” Ladner says. “We want to help Minnesotans understand that there is a problem and share the steps we can all take now to protect our water before it’s too late. Protecting land and water in the Mississippi River Headwaters area will ensure clean drinking water, enhance recreation opportunities, provide clean water for fish and other wildlife and protect jobs. It’s one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, our children and future generations.”

More information about the Conservancy’s efforts to protect Minnesota’s headwaters can be found at http://www.cleanwaterstartshere.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. In Minnesota, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 687,000 acres since 1958. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at nature.org/minnesota.

NOTE TO MEDIA: High-res B-roll and Photos Available Upon Request

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Christopher Anderson